Categories Agriculture

Perennial Crops for Sustainable Agriculture: Solutions to High Cost Plant Production and Soil Erosion

Gardeners delight in perennial flowers and plants because they are aesthetically pleasing, easy to care for and economical. Perennials range from small, low-growing plants to tall, stately stems with multiple blooms. There is a plant for every season and most species (including ornamental grasses) have a long life, coming back faithfully year after year.

Herbaceous perennials include flowers and plants with soft, fleshy stems. These plants live for more than two years. The flowers and foliage die back with the onset of cold temperatures, but the root system remains alive underground through the winter. New leaves and flowers develop and grow every spring and summer. Perennial flowers, generally, have a short blooming period of about 2 to 3 weeks. Some species, such as the chrysanthemum, bloom for a full four months.

Benefits of Perennial Plants

Growing perennial plants and flowers can be satisfying in many ways. The yearly return of beautiful blooms and foliage is a great payoff for a few dollars and a few hours of work. Fresh cut flowers grown from one’s own garden add value to floral arrangements and centerpieces. Time and energy needed for plant care could be spent on other projects.

Perennial plants also help to retain garden soil in place with their roots so that it cannot blow away or be dislodged through flooding. They help with weed control, reducing the need for weed killers and chemical fertilizers. They also give permanence and structure to the garden. Perennials, however, can offer more than aesthetics and ease of gardening. In recent years, much focus has been placed on using perennials to solve agricultural stress.

Perennial Crops as a Key to Agricultural Sustainability

A movement highlighting the benefits of growing perennial plants has recently developed and is quickly growing. Advances in ecology have shown the detrimental effects of conventional agriculture on the landscape, creating a future of problems for long-term sustainability of crops. Many agricultural scientists, including Jerry Glover of The Land Institute, agree that perennial crops are the key to creating more sustainable agricultural systems. (Science Daily, 2009). Glover mentions the need to move away from “annual crop production and increase our use and domestication of perennial crops.”

 

Researchers find perennial fields to be healthier and more sustainable ecosystems. The perennial fields also possess greater biodiversity and higher nutritional levels in the soil. Glover’s team has discovered that the perennial fields are more energy-efficient in providing productive harvests. Researchers and scientists are rediscovering perennials. They have always been a part of our past and also benefit the land as they help prevent soil erosion. It seems as they will be a stable part of the future.

Are Perennial Crops Viable for the Home Grower?

Perennials have always interested home gardeners due to the varied features they offer. The fact that they return every year is, especially, enticing. Many have turned small garden spots into crop-producing domains. Fruit trees, also have been added to many properties. These trees not only heal the environment by cleaning the air, they improve soil quality, prevent erosion, create animal habitat, sustain valuable water sources and provide healthy nutrition.

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